Best Aquarium Lights

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

Lights… cameras… action! Put a spotlight on your tank with the right lighting. Here are our picks for the best aquarium lights.

When it comes to equipping a home aquarium, the focus is often placed on essentials like aquarium filtration and heating. After all, these tools are necessary to maintain high water quality in your tank and to keep the conditions stable for your aquarium fish. Lighting is an important but easily overlooked aspect of keeping a home aquarium. It may not be absolutely essential if you’re only keeping fish in your tank, but it’s a necessity if you have a planted tank or reef tank. The type of lighting you need depends on the type of tank you cultivate and on your tank inhabitants.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the different types of aquarium lighting systems and how to choose the best option for your tank. You’ll also see our top picks for the best aquarium lights.

Best Aquarium Lights

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to aquarium lighting, so you’ll need to do your own research to determine the best fit for your particular tank. To help you get an idea what the options are, however, we’ve assembled a list of products popular among aquarium hobbyists.

Here are our top picks for the best aquarium lights:

1. Editor’s Pick: NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

If you’re looking for bright but energy efficient aquarium lighting, this LED light is perfect. It comes in five different sizes and includes both white and blue LEDs for daylight and night lighting. It also comes with adjustable metal brackets for installation.

2. Runner Up: Aquaneat Aquarium LED Light

Keep your tank illuminated day and night with this LED lighting system. It features super-bright, energy-efficient LEDs in both white and blue for shimmering daytime light and a gentle nighttime glow that won’t irritate nocturnal tank inhabitants.

3. Best for freshwater: Hygger Full Spectrum Aquarium Light

This LED lighting system is ideal for freshwater tanks and can be used in low-to-mid light level planted tanks as well. It comes with adjustable metal mounting brackets and an external controller. Choose from 3 light color modes and adjust the brightness from 10% to 100% according to your needs.

4. Best Clip Light: Lominie LED Aquarium Clip Light

If you simply want to spotlight an area of your tank or you’re looking for an energy efficient option for a smaller tank, this clip light is great. It features 360-degree adjustable gooseneck and a sturdy clamp that won’t damage glass.

5. Best Topper: All Glass Aquariums Fluorescent Strip Light

This strip light is the perfect topper for a standard freshwater or planted aquarium. It fits into a 24-inch hood and comes with the bulb you need to get started. This lighting system features internally mounted ballasts and instant-start circuits that operate on a timer or switch-controlled outlet.

6. Best Tube Light: Eiko T8 Cool Fluorescent Tube Light

If you’re looking for lighting that’s a little bit stronger than standard fluorescent, T8 could be the way to go. It only uses 15 wats of energy and produces a cool white color with a generous 7,500 hour average lifespan.

7. Best Halide Bulb: Phoenix Electric Company Metal Halide Bulb

Reef tanks have unique lighting requirements and metal halide lighting is often required. This metal halide bulb delivers the optimal combination of color and PAR, creating crisp white light with a blue tint perfect for your reef tank.

8. Best Light with Timer

VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series V165 LED Aquarium Light

Fully adjustable and versatile, VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series V165 LED Aquarium Light is specially engineered to make your aquarium’s flora and fauna thrive. This powerful LED light boasts a full spectrum that mimics natural light and is dimmable so you can fully control the type and the amount of light in your fish tank. It also has a built-in timer and two channels so that the brightness can be adjusted from 0% to 100% separately. Even though this is a powerful setup (available in 165w and 300w), this aquarium light won’t disrupt the temperature in your aquarium: it has high-speed quiet fans and upgraded aluminum heat sinks to make sure that the warmth is dissipated away and doesn’t heat up the water. Thanks to its unique layout and features, this aquarium light is suitable for all photosynthetic corals, as well.

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9. Best Hood: Tetra LED Aquarium Hood

For something quick, efficient, and easy to use, try this LED low-profile aquarium hood. It contains built-in LEDs and a low-profile design with cutouts on the back to accommodate your filter and other aquarium equipment.

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10. Best Daylight Glow: Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light

To give your planted tank a boost of extra light, consider this LED clip light. It features red, blue, and white LEDs to deliver a stunning daylight effect and gentle moonlight glow while supporting plant growth.

Tips for Choosing Aquarium Lights

The most important thing to remember when it comes to choosing lighting for your aquarium is that there is more than one correct option. When considering your options, you should know whether the lighting will serve a functional or an aesthetic purpose. In fish-only tanks, lighting shows off the tank and your fish. With a planted tank or reef tank, it provides the energy photosynthetic organisms need to thrive. Think about the type of tank you plan to cultivate before you choose a lighting system.

Here are some tips for choosing the best aquarium lighting:

  • Think about the preferences of your tank inhabitants – most aquarium fish are used to natural sunlight, but nocturnal species will need a place to hide during the day.
  • Consider the needs of live plants – heavily planted tanks will require stronger lighting than a fish-only tank and the bulbs may need to be replaced more often.
  • Look at options for day and night lighting – using LEDs for illumination at night can help you enjoy your tank at all hours without disturbing your fish.
  • Think about how much energy the lighting consumes and how much heat it puts out – high-powered lighting may require an auxiliary fan or chiller.
  • Choose full-spectrum lighting – if you’re lighting a planted tank or you want to make your fish look their best, choose lighting that mimics the effects of natural sunlight.

Aquarium lighting serves a practical purpose in illuminating your tank to ensure that it looks its best. If you’re growing live plants, it’s even more important because it provides the energy your plants need to thrive. Whether you’re shopping for decorative lighting or functional lighting, it’s important to consider the options.

Can a fish tank light be too bright?

Fish need a lot of light to stay healthy and thrive in a fish tank and it would be difficult to get a light that’s too bright for them (as long as you are using special aquarium lights, which is recommended). Some fish prefer less bright lights, but even so, after a while they will get used to it. What’s important is to establish a routine with lightning so they could get accustomed to the brightness and settle into their new environment.

Additional Resources:

Best LED Aquarium Lighting Systems

Understanding the Basics of Freshwater Aquarium Lighting

4 Best Types of Lighting Systems for Planted Aquariums

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Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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